Wednesday 26 February 2014

Further proof that the world is a mad and dangerous place (2)

Well you have to have one from time to time, (rant).
The world is a mess. Yes.
What do we need?
Solutions to . . . well, just about everything really.


What do we not need?

Plug in attachments that emit fragrance for mobile phones.

Yes, it's true, someone in Japan has come up with this planet-saving idea: an ugly white plastic blob that you plug into your phone which then transports you to a fragrant meadow, smoky fireside or wherever else this PERSON thought would be good - probably not a layby on the M6, an abattoir or a dentist's waiting room.
But REALLY, for crying out loud, WTF and many other sayings of frustration and incredulity; we don't need fragrant phones.
Second part of rant is about Nespresso ads.
These must be amongst the most sick-making ads ever created. Why did those two fabulous actors get involved? Duh. Money. Matt earned three million for the 20 second or was it 15 second ad. I hope he did something useful with it rather than gold-plating his swimming pool out-house.
But it's not even that: it's the stupid ads themselves.
That one with the cool blonde drinking her Verrluuuto . . . If George Clooney decided to offer me a second bacon sandwich in Fred's café, for example, I think I'd say yes, and yes yes, probably, because not only would I get a second bacon sandwich, but Mr Clooney would be attached to it and would then regale me with chat and possibly other stuff . . . So, why does she trick him into going to get her a top up and then drinks his, when he would come out with the coffee and himself attached to it and give her sex, money and rock and roll, so to speak.
Or maybe she's so cool that she's not interested. Or she's lost the use of her legs, or too lazy to get another coffee. And why drink his anyway? He may be a megastar, but he might also have some horrible gum disease.

Monday 24 February 2014

In praise of homemade surrealism

When seeing this plaster spaniel gracing the top of a decaying house in a nearby village I was reminded of a certain famous painting

Saturday 22 February 2014

Saturday mornings, walking, adolescence and charts.

Saturday morning (probably like most people's) is a time of restructuring the house, family, etc, after a week of work, travel and learning - depending on age of the family members.
Ezra is at Lycee, half an hour away - long days including getting up at 5.30, (all of us) lots to take in during the week and all the usual questions a sixteen year-old is asking themselves, one of which is, err, what should I do in life?
This is causing much brow-furrowing and temper. Combined with my own 'pre-menopausal woman' brow-furrowing and swearing, the house can be quite resonant with sound (apart from all the noise Mark makes).
A mouldy silence hung over the breakfast table when all the shouting had been done and I decided action had to be taken as even a brief suggestion of raising the weekly allowance didn't seem to be having any effect.
In the long lost past, Star Charts would have been drawn up - if you do this, you will get a gold star: room-clearing, washing in basket, eating cooked carrots, etc; of course non of this now applies.
We went for a walk.
I remember hearing a report on the radio recently about walking, (one of those scientific reports, usually carried out in Scandinavia somewhere) They, whoever they are, had worked out after years of research and much financial input, that walking is good for you . . . not just physically, but mentally. Erm, excuse me, I could have told you that over a cup of tea for about thirty-five euros.
The residual anger faded as we observed nature doing things well in advance of when it should be doing things - thrusting leaves, blossom, birds tweeting manically - and spoke of electronics, housework and yes, the question . . . what does he want to do in life?
That question isn't much further on in answer, but we did get back to the house realising that we did still all like each other; that some jobs, such as Cleaning The Fish Out could be dealt with, and Ezra would make lunch . . . brilliant.
I'm sure it'll all deteriorate fairly quickly, but it's just good to know that he can make an excellent fish stew, and has realised that offering to get everyone else a glass/plate/cup of tea, makes us strangely happy, and a lot less shouty.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Classic 70s comedy

They don't make 'em like this anymore . . .

One of my favourite sit coms from the 70s, and a great demonstration of how regional sales strategy is really developed.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Extraordinary things

We are surrounded by them.
On my own personal list of extraordinary-ness for today - the fact that when I woke up this morning my knee had inexplicably stopped aching; that we managed to acquire an entire boot-load of perfect, untreated wood from the dump, thus replenishing the wood pile, and that the boy mopped up the floor after the dog peed - without me asking him to (boy mopping, not dog peeing). Tiny, insignificant things of no consequence other than to me and the rest of the family.
Then the slightly bigger scale things: blossom coming out in February that should be making an appearance in March, and the machinery involved in replacing railway sleepers on the line opposite our house. I just stood and gawped in amazement this morning at the variety and complexity of the yellow machines, heaving, grinding and lifting. How does anyone create a machine like any of those? I could just about draw one, but to think it up and put it into construction? extraordinary, like I said.
In the category of extraordinary things that are not of great world consequence, unlike uncontrollable weather conditions, (or possibly controllable in the long term, some would argue) and Kim Jong-un's activities, I would add the acting abilities of Matt Damon and Michael Douglas.
We watched, for the second time, last night, Behind The Candelabra.

How wonderful to watch two such type cast actors embracing such an utterly different subject.
Matt Damon stars no longer in my mind as bloodied Bourne crashing though buildings bristling with weaponry; nope, he's stuck for ever in a white Rhinestone-encrusted chauffeurs outfit, with a light application of lipstick.

Moving on to a category of total 'uh what? and following on with the theme of gay.
A visiting American friend this morning noted wryly that they probably wouldn't enjoy the film in Kansas.
Apparently, the Kansas House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a measure to bring anti-gay segregation to it's state - allowing shops/cinemas/hotels, etc, to eject people; making it possible to fire people from jobs on account of their sexuality, and even meaning that a policeman/firefighter/doctor, et al, does not have to assist someone gay, if interacting with a gay person violates his or her religious beliefs.
In fact, no one is supposed to enjoy the film in the U.S . . . it's not on general release and only available on cable T.V. as it was deemed to be Too Gay.
Shouldn't people be worrying about something that really matters rather than a fellow human's sexuality? like how we can keep the world from caving in on itself due to our own stupid actions.

sign image from politicususa. Sorry who ever made the Gif image of Matt Damon, I can't find it again to credit - but it's wonderful.

Saturday 15 February 2014

One of the many things I wish I could do

I had a wonderful dream last night amongst all the usual absurdities - that I could tap dance.

With a nod to weather conditions, here is a sublime extract from Singing in the afore-mentioned substance. Sorry to all those who would really, really, really like to be singing and dancing in hot, dry sunshine.

Friday 14 February 2014

Valentines day

Breaking the time-honoured tradition of not even noticing that this much-hyped day is passing, we are going out FOR LUNCH. Incredible. No sign of a delivery man staggering under the weight of red roses at the front door, but it's a start.
I just had to post a picture of, I forget which, bridge in Paris where breathless, intoxicated lovers pause from a pink world of passion, and clamp a small padlock engraved with a few meaningful words onto the link fence.


'How wonderful', I had breathed, observing all these trinkets when we were visiting that magical city, a couple of summers ago. People must travel from thousands of miles with this idea of romantic gesture carried close to their hearts; or perhaps rush to a Cordonnier (cobbler-type business) on a whim, padlock in sweaty hand after being caught in a torrid holiday romance . . .
This heady, romantic idea was somewhat squashed by a feature on Telematin this morning, however.
For a price, you can order on the internet, a padlock, (size, colour to be determined) with your engraved message. Then presumably some French bod will go and whap it onto the fence along with the rest of the orders.
Come on! Where's the romance in that.
I don't know . . . Goes into kitchen to put kettle on . . . 

Thursday 13 February 2014


Just wait in the office, please, Madame.
This particular Waiting In An Office was at our local MOT station, or 'control tecnique'.
While the car was being electrocuted, poked and made to run on a treadmill, I was invited to wait.
I'm always intrigued by garage offices, and most offices that are attached to some other activity - not just offices in their own right - massive acreages of open plan or cubical'd space (depending on the current thinking at the time of the office's interior construction) with a million computers and posture-correcting chairs. Yes . . . what? Oh, yes, garage offices: the humble, usually dingy, small room where you wait, flicking through a few faded copies of Tyre Monthly and wondering how much money is about to be requested.
I think this particular MOT station has been running for about twenty-five years in our town; the main man cheerful and helpful for someone who has to stand in an often, freezing echoing space, breathing in car fumes and occasionally nipping into the luxurious warmth and refuge of his . . . small dingy space.
Twenty-five years of the same bone-coloured walls and strip-light. I'd imagine that's a pretty new filing cabinet and looming black cupboard, but otherwise It's probably always looked like that.
A certain part of my brain sometimes likes to calculate odd facts to do with time - strange for someone who got grade five CSE in maths.
How long might I have stood in the post office if I had to do it all in one go in my life? Three months?
How many cakes has Mark made - we did work that one out once; I think it was about twenty thousand.
How many years laughing, or months sneezing.
Sex . . . months, years?
How many baths? How long have I sat in one?
How many days have I spent saying where's the tin opener/that pen I was using/the car key.
Etc . . .
Anyway. I suppose I was thinking how long would this man have spent with his feet up, or down, in this small featureless office.
Over twenty-five years . . . say, two hours a weekday = ten per week. Fifty-two times ten = shit, someone's moved the calculator somewhere, err, five hundred and twenty? times twenty-five years . . . well, an awfully long time to be staring at blank walls and a frosted glass window.
A pot plant or two? A few posters of mind-numbingly beautiful cars like the Citroen DS, or a nice mural of a sparkling bay fringed by palm trees? A small, comfy sofa? A cat?
I suppose it's just not important, but if I was going to spend several years worth of time in that one space, I'd want it to feel a little bit welcoming.

Monday 10 February 2014

Our day out in Bram

Last saturday dawned manky and damp. I would like to have been about to explore the streets of Miami or Valetta perhaps but instead we were going to have a trip out to wander around the train station at Bram. Ezra's choice, and to be fair, quite a good deal really: half an hours worth of petrol, some sketching and a cup of tea if we could find a café.
I refused his first plea for a mooch around the station at Castelnaudary (see previous posts) as it was further and we'd only just been there.
So, for anyone looking at this blog who is under the happy impression that the South of France is all espadrilles, lavender and dawn to dusk sunshine, here is the reality . . . February in the middle of a windy plain somewhere between Toulouse and Carcassonne.

The old fire station of Bram (Centre de secours = centre of HELP) not sure where the new one is, or if they have one?
Thinking someone was attacking a Citroen DS with a broom, I was about to go and ask if we could have it (car, not the broom) but then realised it was just a way of holding the bonnet up.


A rather moving, and uncared for, monument near the train station, stating that it was here that 159 Jews (of which, 21 were children) who were resident in the Aude department, were taken in a raid, by order of the Vichy government and delivered to the Nazis. They were sent from Bram station towards the extermination camp at Auschwitz.

While I was standing in probably a rather stupid place, a memory slipped into my mind of my first encounter with PERSPECTIVE. Drawing that is, not an angle on life - that came a bit later.
I was in a tea room in Muswell hill with my mother, at the age of about seven, and I was drawing something as usual. A man sitting on the next table asked me if I would like to know how perspective works. On a paper napkin he drew something very like the scene above and I suddenly understood a little of what Uccello became obsessed by. All my drawings for a short while were full of lines zooming towards vanishing points. I wish I had kept the napkin.

A slightly menacing building, hiding behind a factory.

A sad building next to the railway. I wondered who owned it and why it had been abandoned - perhaps in favour of one of the box-like pink villas dotted around the outskirts of the town.


The highlight of the trip - a cup of tea in a time-forgotten café in the centre of town. A typical French version of a 'nice cup of tea': cup, containing almost hot water and 'yellow label' teabag on the saucer. At my request for milk, the café owner disappeared for ten minutes, returning with a gravy boat of milk, by which time the tea was cold. Not quite the National Trust experience I was lusting after, but it sort of did the job. 
    The café itself was one of those places that was put together in the early 70s and never touched again. The bowed Constable-type prints in their rustic wooden frames hung lopsidedly in the dull light from several suspended cartwheel lamps, and in the window sat a dining advertisment of a small table, candles and faded orange plastic chairs. Wonderful.

We did find the church, which was in need of more illumination in its central areas. The only church I've ever been in that smelt of toast rather than the usual musty damp stone.

And so, back to the car with hungry dogs and slightly disappointed Ezra - again we hadn't witnessed a TGV passing at 200 KM an hour. 
I'm sure there are some more scenic parts of Bram, but it was the semi-derelict buildings, each with their ragged collection of pigeons, that were the stars of the day.

Thursday 6 February 2014

Clothes logo meeting.

OK, what can we put on this one . . . I know, drop the dictionary and wherever it falls open at, we'll use the first word, third line down, left hand side. Go.
Lawnmower . . . mm, perhaps not.
Try again: Long intestine. Nope.
Oh, let me try . . . skunk.
My turn: sock-stretcher.
You're not doing it right. Drop it higher, off the top of that filing cabinet. OK.
Eccles cake.
Marsh warbler.
Scrag end of lamb.
Flying buttress.
Look it's five o'clock. The next three things and that's it.
Joy ride. Victorian. Times.
That's rubbish.
I know, but I need to get to the shops . . . anyway Victorian times – that's alright . . .
Yeah, but, Joy ride?
Did you turn the coffee machine off?

Monday 3 February 2014

Building No 35

Not number 23, possibly next to number 23.
A scary looking bunker thing, maybe containing a tank, or perhaps just some lawnmowers. I don't think anyone had opened the doors for many years to find out.

I had the feeling that if I went back to this backwater of Castelnaudary in thirty years time, this structure would still be the same: a little more decayed, and whatever is inside, a little more rusty and forgotten.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Hair through the ages

Well, mine through my ages.
Some people I know have always had pretty much the same hairstyle. My friend Jo for example; for as long as I have known her she has had beautiful blonde, well-behaved hair, cut in a longish bob: why change it? I suppose if I had well-behaved hair I might leave it alone, but it's that sort of slightly wavy, not curly, a bit frizzy and generally annoying. Or perhaps everyone thinks that . . . do people who have wonderful corkscrew curls, long for placid unflappable hair? Or vice versa.

My first 'style,' wasn't. It was just my hair, long enough almost to sit on: a blonde mane with a sort of rasta mat underneath as it was rarely brushed except if my mother really insisted.
Then at some point it got cut, can't remember when, and I can't remember how long, short or anything until . . . the 80s.
Yes I had a perm, worse than any footballer. I used to ride a moped and on taking off the helmet, rather than being able to swish a shining waterfall of hair, a statically manic ball of hair would spring forth.
The perm went fairly quickly, replaced by, I actually can't remember what. My only memory of that point in the hair diary was getting my ear cut by a hairdresser in 'Blow Jobs' (really, I kid not) in Bournemouth. Blood spurted impressively for some minutes, the upshot being a free cut.
During art college days my hair was blonde, pink, blue and cut by friends; people high on stuff, by myself, and once, shaved bald for a photo shoot, earning 50 quid.

Post art college I was living in London. Having NO money, I discovered a hairdressing school on Tottenham Court Road where you could pay a couple of pounds for a 'style' as long as you were happy to let them do whatever they wanted. The result once was a blonde Teddy Boy quiff which was fairly awful; that then morphed into a series of streaked blonde and orange affairs, and then I went sleek and black-bobbed for a few years.

As The Bob is a difficult one to maintain, I eventually tired of it, and opted for various short styles, often cut by myself; sometimes looking like mouse attack, other times successful enough for people to comment on in a positive way.
When I had more money in London I used to treat myself to a rare jaunt to a State of the Art salon in Kensington, full of welded metal, funky mirrors and black leather-clad hairdressers. I was far to scared to ask what they were going to do, and it was always a surprise, usually a good one.

When I moved to Nottingham I would join the queue of elderly men at the barber opposite where I lived. The barber, probably around sixty-five must have cut about fifty heads of hair a day, barely noticing one customer leave and another take the chair. This was probably the worst cut of my hair history: the Flat Top - awful.

Wirksworth - Ian the barber, I think. And occasional forays into a real salon in Derby.

Birmingham - Ah yes, Marc the yakking hairdresser in a nice salon off the Lace Market. He was a very good stylist and incredible talker. I think I did learn his entire life history several times over.  

Hairdo for our Wedding - proper, hyper posh, scary salon in the new expensive town centre development at that time - short, slightly aubergine - my hair, not the salon.

And so to France.

There are about twenty hair shops in our small town. I have been in about three of them.
They are all scary and full of women with new handbags and perfect nails at all times. The only advantage over British places is that they don't tend to ask if it's your day off, or 'you doin a bita shoppin', or 'goin anywhere nice for your holiday this year'?
Maybe they don't give a duck gizzard, or perhaps I give off vibes of total disinterest, but either way I have on those rare occasions managed to bury myself in a book and adjust my head-tilt as required.

Then we met Alvin: super hairdresser, artist and photographer who lives part time in a small village nearby, and part time in New York.
He's brilliant. We trade hairdo's for car lodging at our place and it works well. Only problem is that during the times he is in the USA for long periods, the hair lapses into 'me and scissors', whereupon he will patiently do his best to correct the damage on his return.

Having had a rather good longish side parted bob 'do' for some time, I've now had it chopped; mainly due to hair in the eyes becoming annoying and thus a woolly hat becoming more and more of a feature - in and out of the house.

So that's where I am at the moment: short, mousy, possibly the real colour I never saw all those years, before the grey descended . . .

There's always the hat option.